Plough Monday

Plough Monday Quick Facts

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2024 Date8 January 2024
2025 Date13 January 2025

Plough Monday

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Plough Monday History

Plough Monday marks the beginning of the agricultural year. On this day, farmers and agricultural labourers would traditionally gather to show off their skills and celebrate with dancing, feasting, and other festivities. A key aspect of the celebration involves the blessing of the plough, a symbolic ritual that seeks to bring protection, fertility, and abundance to the land and its cultivators.

Although there is no exact date for the origin of Plough Monday, it is believed to have its roots in medieval England. This tradition gained significance and relevance during the era of the agricultural revolution with the increasing importance of farming to the livelihoods of many rural communities. Today, Plough Monday serves as a reminder of the United Kingdom's rich agricultural heritage and emphasizes the critical role that farming plays in our lives by providing food and sustenance.

Plough Monday is typically celebrated on the first Monday after Epiphany, also known as Twelfth Night. In the United Kingdom, various regions have unique customs and activities to mark this occasion. In some communities, people participate in "plough plays," short theatrical performances which narrate the story of a farmer and his plough. Others may partake in folk dances and indulge in traditional dishes. A highlight of the day includes the "plough procession," where a decorated plough is paraded through the village, often accompanied by lively music, dance, and merriment. Plough Monday allows people in the United Kingdom to come together in celebration of their agricultural past and present, fostering a sense of unity and appreciation for the hard work of those who work the land.

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Plough Monday Facts & Quotes

  • A common tradition started in the 19th century is molly dancing. Molly dancers would accompany farm labourers to dance and entertain for money. They would blacken their faces with soot to disguise themselves so they would not be recognised by future employers.
  • It was common in the medieval era for ploughs to be blessed with candlelight's on Plough Sunday by the church. It wasn’t until the Reformation period that these blessings were stopped as they were thought to be superstitious.
  • The earliest plough play comes from Bassingham in North Lincolnshire. Created in 1823, the play was performed as a dramatic comedy.
  • In some parts of the country, and especially in the north, they draw the plough in procession to the doors of the villagers and townspeople. Long ropes are attached to it, and thirty or forty men, stripped to their clean white shirts, but protected from the weather by waistcoats beneath, drag it along. Their arms and shoulders are decorated with gay-coloured ribbons, tied in large knots and bows, and their hats are smartened in the same way. They are usually accompanied by an old woman, or a boy dressed up to represent one; she is gaily bedizened, and called the Bessy - The Every Day Book by William Hone
  • Plough Monday emerged from medieval times when agricultural communities would come together to bless the plough and pray for a successful farming year.
  • The term plough refers to the traditional wooden implement used in agriculture to turn over the soil for planting.

Plough Monday Top Events and Things to Do

  • Attend a Plough Monday celebration. Festivals and observances are regional but some towns have revived the tradition. These include Cambridgeshire, Whittlesey, Yorkshire, and the Isles of Scilly
  • Learn more about the history of Plough Monday.
  • Watch a highlight of last year's Plough Day celebrations.
  • Dig into English literature and explore poems or stories that are associated with Plough Monday or the agricultural tradition. You can find many pieces online or in books about folklore and customs.
  • Prepare and enjoy traditional English dishes like roast beef, Yorkshire pudding, plum pudding, or apple pie.

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